Get Silent Alerts for New Gmail Messages

Learn about new messages without opening your inbox

Inbox by Gmail Screenshot
Inbox by Gmail.

Google, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

Gmail makes it easy to quickly know if you have a new message without opening up your inbox. This can be done by enabling a setting that shows you how many ​unread emails you have with a quick glance at your browser's bookmark bar.

Why Background Notifications Are Important

There are many things on our computer that cause distractions and you can set alerts for everything from new messages to breaking news updates. However, if you're trying to be productive, too many notifications can put a serious damper on your workflow.

Gmail's unread messages notification is a quick and simple way to know if you have any new messages. Once enabled, a number will appear next to the Gmail favicon in your browser's bookmark bar or in the Gmail tab while it's open.

This feature actually counts the number of unread messages in Gmail. Yet, if you keep a clean inbox and mark messages as read often, this is a great way to know when a new message arrives without annoying notifications.

Without enabling this feature, you can still get a count of unread messages while Gmail is open in a browser tab. This will appear after the word "Inbox" in the tab as parenthesis surrounding a number: Inbox (1).

How to Turn on the Unread Message Icon

Gmail's unread messages count can work for your entire inbox. If you have the Priority Inbox enabled, it will only show new messages for that box so you aren't notified of spam, social, or promotions messages.

Once you have enabled the "Unread messages icon," you will see a number overlaying the icon in your Gmail bookmark on the browser's toolbar as well as in the tab while Gmail is open. The icon will always have a "0" so you know the feature is working and it will change with each new unread message that comes in.

To enable the "Unread message icon":

  1. Click the gear icon in Gmail and choose Settings.
  2. Go to the Labs tab.
  3. Look for the "Unread message icon" lab and click Enabled.
    1. To find the option fast, you can type "message icon" in the Labs search form.
  4. Click Save Changes.

Note that ​the Unread message icon may not work in all browsers. You may see the standard icon in Safari, for example, including if you pin Gmail.